Friday, 30 September 2016

THE EARLY ADVENTURES - 3.1 THE AGE OF ENDURANCE

Authenticity, thats what its all about in The Early Adventures and this months first story of the third season is no exception, in fact its a text book example of how to write, direct, produce and score a Season 1 period Hartnell story. Unlike some attempts at recapturing the Hartnell era in other media Big Finish have really captured the soul of 1963/1964 in The Age of Endurance. Unfortunately the wonderful Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) is no longer with is so in a move possible inspired by last years casting of  Elliott Chapman as Ben Jackson, this story introduces Jemma Powell taking on the role of Barbara Wright. Jemma has already played Barbara on TV in Mark Gatiss’ wonderful “An Adventure in Space and Time” so was a natural choice to try to fill Jacqueline Hill’s unfillable shoes and she is superb in the role. Barbara really was the heart of the first two seasons of Doctor Who, and contributed more than any other character to the mellowing of the Doctor. But what of the story? Well, read on.
 As I said at the beginning of my review it is very very authentic. It begins like any other season one story, the TARDIS materialises and the crew have literally no idea where they are and set out to examine their surroundings. Its slow paced, deliberate and just a little bit “stagey” – you can imagine it being filmed in a tiny studio at Lime Grove under too hot lights with not enough time for rehearsal. There is only just enough time for the crew to discover a dead body when the spaceship they have landed on is boarded by soldiers and our heroes are plunged into the middle of a war between the soldiers and the shape-shifters known only as “The Shift” and their leader Arran (Tom Bell) – things become even more desperate when Barbara is taken prisoner by The Shift and a chase through space ensues to rescue her.
 The whole story is one gigantic game of cat and mouse throughout the vastness of space and just like early Doctor Who there is a moral ambiguity to all the characters because both sets of protagonists are very well drawn, the seemingly evil Shift are much much more than the standard rubber suit villains and have some redeeming features and conversely the “heroes” under their leader Myla (Rachel Atkins) are not a whiter than white set of square jawed do-gooders.
 The TARDIS crew are on top form with William Russell giving us the heroic Ian that we expect, but also a spot on Hartnell complete with hmm, harrumphs and line flubs. Carole Ann Ford as Susan is just like she was on TV, and it strikes me as how different her actual voice is as narrator to her “Susan voice” and Jemma Powell really does capture the spirt of Barbara Wright without resorting to an impersonation of Jacqueline Hill, in fact we don’t quite hear enough of her as Barbara is captured early on in part two and is not in the story again until part four – however this happened regularly on the TV show as cast had their holidays, so again Big Finish spot on with the authenticity.
 So overall a strong start to the third season of Early Adventures, slow paced, ponderous and almost plodding – the story is a chase but with all the infinity of space to chase through it lacks a little urgency but what it does lack in pace it more than makes up in period feel and season one charm. An Enduring pastiche of the Hartnell Age 7/10.